Engaging with the community is a valuable way to build trust, form positive relationships and gain buy-in when starting new projects that could have an impact on a local area.
Successful community engagement requires an open dialogue with local residents and groups, so opinions can be gathered and taken into consideration as part of the decision making process.
However, sometimes people simply don’t have the time to participate in traditional engagement activities such as focus groups or meetings, so it’s worthwhile having a bank of alternative solutions when it comes to planning community engagement.
Collaboration is key
Collaboration is arguably the most crucial aspect when planning community engagement efforts. Hosting think-tank or consultation sessions with a diverse range of stakeholders from all walks of life can really bring the community together in a positive way to share ideas and plan solutions together
These face-to-face sessions help people to feel that they are being listened to and allow them to express their opinions. Sometimes, some of the ideas you may think are a bit ‘out-there’ can be the most successful!
It’s really important however to maintain contact afterwards and show people how their input has been acted upon. ‘You said, we did’ style reports work well for this.
Identifying key stakeholders
By definition, a stakeholder is somebody who can affect, or will be affected by your project. It’s important to set aside time to research and create a list of all your stakeholders so you know exactly who you are trying to reach. Researching local social media groups and using social listening tools can be useful in finding relevant stakeholders and social media influencers you may have otherwise missed.
Take it online
While online tools are not a replacement for traditional engagement methods, they can provide a host of benefits. Taking activities online is cost effective, accessible and will allow you to reach a broad audience.
One idea is to create dedicated pages on your website and populate these with insightful and informative content that can help build awareness of your engagement efforts (whilst also boosting your SEO ranking in the process). You could also include interactive features such as polls and surveys to encourage two-way communication with the community.
If you are struggling to build momentum with your community engagement, offering incentives can help. While extrinsic perks such as gift cards, merchandise and exclusive discount vouchers will pique interest, there can be more value in offering intrinsic rewards.
You could consider setting up a community committee, where prominent residents or groups can act as ambassadors and share a more collaborative role in your project. Ambassadors provide greater access to the local community and can be gatekeepers to a whole host of unseen, yet important, stakeholders.
It’s vital, in our busy and increasingly digital world, to take a creative and individualised approach in order to influence your audience.
Get in touch with any of the team at Genesis for more information about how we can help support your community engagement projects.